Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Source of Praise

Of what do we boast? In what ways do we seek praise? All of us enjoy the pat on the back, recognition for a job well done, and sincere appreciation for the value of our contributions. God knows that about us. He also knows that sometimes we grow impatient, waiting on all that good feedback, and feel compelled to help it along a bit. Proverbs guides us away from the need to self-promote and self-congratulate.

Proverbs 27
1 Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.
2Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.
19As in water face reflects face,
So a man's heart reveals the man.
21The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold,
And a man is valued by what others say of him.

I often can confound myself in this area. When in my weakness I seek undue attention, it is often at precisely those moments when I experience the moral equivalent of the toilet paper trailing from my shoe. You know what I mean. When I am most looking for that positive affirmation of my skills, or abilities, or performance, that's when my tires go flat.

Yet when we don't look for praise, or when it comes unexpected, how much greater joy we feel! How much more pumped up we are, how much more gratified. These experiences are a reflection of our hearts, and that is why so many very famous people who strive for attention, are so miserable and forlorn. When you have to work that hard at recognition, you don't end up feeling very good about yourself, and ironically, your need for positive affirmation increases all the more.

Seek first His righteousness, then all these will be added unto you.

Rise Above Our Nature

As human beings, whether on our own or in concert, we have a limitless capacity for incapacity. Our rationalizations spin in logical circles around the targets of our reflection. If it's something we want to avoid or escape, we seem to think, "wish it gone and make it so!" As might be expected from a God of action and purpose, He wants us to rise above our human nature.

Proverbs 26
13The lazy man says, "There is a lion in the road!
A fierce lion is in the streets!"
14As a door turns on its hinges,
So does the lazy man on his bed.
15The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl;
It wearies him to bring it back to his mouth.
16The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes
Than seven men who can answer sensibly.

We can see the dangers, we recognize the threats around us. It's almost as if we interrupt whatever normal thinking process would guide our response, and substitute an alternative logic that requires complete inactivity. God speaks through Proverbs, drawing attention to the image of a sleeper, who may rouse himself just enough to say, "Look there," but not enough to actually react.

The other image shown here is of the lost man who is too lazy even to feed himself, when the food is readily at hand. There are times in God's provision and Grace that what we need for life is just that close, and the only obstacle to our achieving our purpose is but to raise our hands. And yet, in the midst of our waking slumbers, we knowingly reflect on how wise we are in all (in our own eyes).

We might recall from Proverbs 24, that famous line quoted by Shakepeare (to different purpose):
33A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest;

And in the end, destruction follows close at hand.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Carnival Highlights

I wanted to highlight a couple of exceptional posts that are part of this week's Christian Carnival.

Dory at Wittenburg Gate references the C.S. Lewis argument in Mere Christianity, against (logically) being able to view Jesus as a great teacher. Dory quotes Lewis:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic---on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg---or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make the choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Dory goes on to survey in the first 11 chapters of Matthew all the audacious claims Jesus makes about Himself.

Team Hammer quotes John Stuart Mill on their website:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

Which of course reminds me of the tagline at Mudville Gazette:
"Good people sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."
Which I am told is a quote from George Orwell, though I do not know.

As the rest of Team Hammer's post, you will just have to follow the link.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Christian Carnival is Up

This week's Christian Carnival is up at Wittenburg Gate.

Enjoy the sixty entries from the Christian blogosphere.

A Word Fitly Spoken

Yesterday's Proverbs reading seemed particularly appropriate for someone who spends so much time writing!

Proverbs 25
11A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold
In settings of silver.
12Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold
Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.
13Like the cold of snow in time of harvest
Is a faithful messenger to those who send him,
For he refreshes the soul of his masters.

We all have heard the expression, "Truer words were never spoke." Our words can have so much value and meaning. We can't wait to hear the good news. Some wait for the Lottery or Sweepstakes Prize Patrol. Some are anxious for some important decision to be made.

God wants us to view even criticism as something important that we should hear, if it's intended for our correction. He calls us to obedience, and many times that call comes from those closest to us, who have the courage to approach us in love with a message of correction.

And sometimes we must be that messenger. But if He is the author of the message, then well might the receiver of our message be refreshed. There should be no nourishment greater than a fitly spoke word that helps us draw closer to God by being obedient to His voice of correction.

God's Object Lessons

We can all fall victim to a loss of hope at times when we fall. Sometimes the fall can be misfortune, more often it can be something inside us. For some, it might be despair, a lack of assurance in the promises of God, or even doubt or disbelief of any promise at all. For others, it may be sin that tugs at conscience or whose consequences play out to the frustration of their host.

Yet God, in Proverbs 24, goes so far as to warn anyone who may do us harm:

15Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous;
Do not plunder his resting place;
16For a righteous man may fall seven times
And rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.
God doesn't expect perfection, only He could create it, and that in His original works. He may have made each of us for a purpose, but He knows the vessels in whom His purposes are fulfilled. God worked through Cyrus, speaking through Isaiah:

4For Jacob My servant's sake,
And Israel My elect,
I have even called you by your name;
I have named you, though you have not known Me.

As He can work through even those who do not know Him, all the more that He can work through us who try to follow Him. He works with us before we stumble, He is there for us when we stumble, and He wants us to remember the stumbling long after our bruises have healed.

17Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
18Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him,
And He turn away His wrath from him.
It's in our nature to want to see evil repaid with wrath, to see vengeance in our presence when we see or experience wrong. But it just isn't our place. God's perfect will may allow evil to flourish for a season, but it is not in any kind of payment to the evildoer, and eventually his lamp will be put out:

19Do not fret because of evildoers,
Nor be envious of the wicked;
20For there will be no prospect for the evil man;
The lamp of the wicked will be put out.
We worry so much about the affairs of others. We catalog their sins. We mind their business, we know exactly what's wrong with them, and we know what they need to do. If a mirror were to suddenly fall in front of us at those times, how many of us would see ourselves, and how many would think they were still taking inventory of their neighbor?

We are to see evil and sloth, inattentiveness to God and obedience to the earthly failings of this earth. Our job is to properly apprehend what we see, and comprehend what it means -- lest we fall prey to the same conceits:

30I went by the field of the lazy man,
And by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding;
31And there it was, all overgrown with thorns;
Its surface was covered with nettles;
Its stone wall was broken down.
32When I saw it, I considered it well;
I looked on it and received instruction:
33A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to rest;
34So shall your poverty come like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
God provides us these valuable object lessons in the form of other people's experiences. (And often, our own. As we can so easilt find ourselves on the other side of the glass, it behooves us to have compassion on the examples we see around us.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

That Which is Not

Proverbs 23

4Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
5Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.

Our culture may lure us into seeking material riches overmuch. Too many of us strive beyond all reasonable sustenance, and our recompense becomes its own end. (It's all about the money!)

God makes the point here that riches are an illusion, in the way we think of them. Beyond the simple fact that we earn to spend, and everything that comes in goes out, material wealth is as transitory as we ourselves. We are here in this earthly existence but for a moment, and the things we collect are here only somewhat longer. (You can't take it with you.)

How strange that this imagery should be suggested here! In Isaiah 40:31, God says:
31But those who wait on the LORD
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.

Here, an eagle is used to describe how those who trust in God will be uplifted.

Same words, but in Proverbs describing how wealth will be fleeting. Perhaps this is meant as a warning, a way of redirecting our attention. From human experience we know, that as we fall and our expectations are confounded, when we are broken or rebuked, it is at those times of our greatest vulnerability that God can use to reach us. We have to hit our bottom before we will look up to Him.

We may seek after riches, but after riches, we may find ourselves in a sorrier state. But that may be the better blessing, for in looking up from that depth, we may find our Savior.

Monday, April 25, 2005

At Risk with Mom

(Dual post on Gladmanly & Dadmanly)

Editor's Note: Mrs. Dadmanly has an unusual sort of praise report this evening, one which reflects her being put "at risk" by Little Manly, and how that turned out. Edited for content (reduction of chortlings of glee).

From Mrs. Dadmanly:

For those of you who do not know, I CANNOT STAND to play the game RISK. Little Manly and Dadmanly, well more Little Manly I think, LOVE the game, YUCK YUCK YUCK.

One of Little Manly's first questions was, "Will you be playing Risk with me Mom?" So, when Dadmanly left for Iraq, I told my son I would "maybe" play once a month. Needless to say, we played MUCH more than that, because I haven't quite learned yet how to say "NO" and let it stick. Plus, I feel bad for Little Manly because NO ONE but his Dad likes to play this game, go figure, lol.

I have lost EVERY GAME since I started playing in MAY 2004.

(If you can, imagine there is music to the next sentence and I am dancing a VICTORY dance...) I'm a winner, I'm a winner, I'm a winner!!!

I CANNOT EVEN BELIEVE IT! I won my first game of RISK!!!!! I whooped *s*! Little Manly was NOT happy.... We played the game for TWO days!!!! (in between doing life). I decided I wanted to dominate the world this time. I was jumping and yelling and screaming when I won, and Little Manly was so upset. I told him to give me a "high five" and he refused so I chased him around the house, tackled him and MADE him give me a high five, his fist was clenched, hee hee hee. (Is that considered abuse?)

Little Manly then RETREATED to the upstairs while I continued to sing and dance and yell in the livingroom. (Hey, its been 11 months of losing, I think I was justified in my behavior, right?)

After a while he came downstairs and apologized, of course after I reminded him that just today we were at Opening Day Ceremonies for Baseball and our Assemblyman spoke to all the ball players about "FAIR PLAY" whether they win or lose. GUESS WHAT HE SAID TO THAT?

"Well Mom, I am sorry, BUT for a Mom that barely (get this barely) knows anything about HISTORY, a Mom that is not much for WARS, and NOT GOOD WITH STRATEGY, you can see why I'm amazed that YOU BEAT ME! ("No, I did not just BEAT you, Little Manly," I said in my mind, "I WHOOPED YOU," hee hee hee!!!!!) IT FELT SO GOOD :)

I think I need a vacation, do you? How sad is this. I could not WAIT to get to work today to share this with the WORLD. You would think I just got a new car or something. Hope you all enjoyed this, probably not as much as I did.

Little Manly told me we HAVE TO HAVE A rematch! I really feel like I deserve MOM OF THE YEAR. Anyone else think so, hee hee hee?????

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Lord Considers the Heart

I continue my walk through Proverbs with my friend John. Yesterday, I spent time with Proverbs 21.

The LORD Considers the Heart
1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD,
Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
In the days of Kings, the state of a King’s heart probably had more direct impact on people’s lives than any other feature of their environment. It must have seemed in those days that there was no rhyme or reason to the whims of the king. Like rivers of water, the King’s demands or edicts could turn or circle, or even reverse upon their course.

For the chosen people, God was prepared to respond. Too often, His people rebelled or ignored the warnings of the prophets. But even in the midst of their uncertainty and disappointments, God tells us here that wherever He leads, the king’s heart will follow.

This is echoed in Isaiah 45, where God proclaims that He will rise up and exalt Cyrus, who will be used in God’s purpose for the sake of Israel:
4 For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.

5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me,

6 so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other.

God has often used those who do not acknowledge Him or His sovereignty. Even those who acknowledge Him, can stray from His will as their hearts and minds follow other leanings. We are all imperfect vessels for His will, and but we are all a part of His divine purposes. As we struggle with opportunities and threats, challenges and trials, God weighs our hearts. He knows our motivations, our past, present and future.

This is confirmed in Proverbs 21:
2Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the LORD weighs the hearts.
3To do righteousness and justice
Is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
4A haughty look, a proud heart,
And the plowing of the wicked are sin.
Many of us can make the mistake of focusing more on sacrifices and observances for God, and lose sight of the promptings of the heart that are central to His purposes. He wants our commitment to Him. He wants us to be a part justice, righteous in our words and deeds.

When we harden our hearts, or when our hearts are too full of ourselves to have much room for Him, or when we dismiss or devalue others, the fruit of our hearts and our behavior will inevitably grieve God from our sin.

Patience & Navigation

We do well to wait upon the Lord. We may find His way inscrutable (hard to see or understand); we may find it way too slow (we are an impatient people). We may be tempted to respond to our difficulty in waiting of the Lord, but taking matters into our own hands to get the job done.

Proverbs 20 speaks to that impatience and warns of the ways we may stray.

21An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning
Will not be blessed at the end.
Patience is what we need, it may even be what the Lord wants us to find, to learn, to experience, and perhaps to perfect. But we can so clearly see what seems right in our own eyes! And there is so much evil around us, so many others blinded by their sins, doing the wrong things. Can't we help God along in His (and our) righteousness?

22Do not say, "I will recompense evil";
Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.
Maybe we want to re-evaluate, reconsider, re-create circumstances, maybe the ways we think and speak about situations, to rationalize how we might let the ends justify the means. Turn the enemy's tools against them, fight fire with fire.

23Diverse weights are an abomination to the LORD,
And dishonest scales are not good.
We can't achieve victory on our own, and we can;t do good by doing bad. The ends don't justify the means, in many ways the means are the end. God wants us to work on process, and let Him worry about the results.

24A man's steps are of the LORD;
How then can a man understand his own way?

Finally, if we can depend on Him for the very navigation of our Christian Walk, we don't need to understand where we're headed. Though we may see through the glass darkly or dimly, still we can trust in God that these little baby steps He has us take will leave us in the end where He wants us to arrive.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Praise Report from Mrs. Dadmanly

(Editor's Note: Mrs. Dadmanly has graciously allowed us to post a praise report she sent Dadmanly today, the first of hopefully a regular feature. Names have been changed to maintain anonymity, and the picture has been modified to fit your screen.)

Good Morning Everyone!!!!!! This is looonnngg.....

I felt like taking one turn in-between Dadmanly's daily inspiration. I read my husbands emails filled with inspiration, hope, wisdom, love, courage, and it is AMAZING to me what the Lord has done/is doing in Dadmanly's life, separate and apart from his family, friends, etc. WOW! I get blown away almost daily by what continues to transpire in his life, I cannot wait to see the next chapter unfold. Although I, like many others, do not always have time to read through everything at once, or grasp the depth of the work that is being done in his life, I have grown just because he is sharing.

I wanted to share my heart today that is filled to the brim and overflowing. If anyone would have told me that I could experience the degree of joy, peace, direction, guidance, wisdom, care, love, GROWTH, and sadness, that has occurred in me and my life since Dadmanly left, I would have truly told them they were crazy. When Dadmanly first left I went through a deep rooted pain that I cannot even express in words, and this was the most horrible, horrible thing God could have ever done. I had no idea this experience would grow into and become one of the most life changing pieces of my life, exactly where I need to be at this point in my life.

I was reflecting this morning on the numerous ways in which God has been taking care of me during this deployment. The revelation truly hit me today. I have experienced first hand what I have been reading and praying and learning about, and waiting for and longing for, and even doubting could be for me. God's Grace, Mercy, Love, Care throughout this "journey" that I had no control over (hum, even a message there, mycontrol???). This was not a journey I would have ever chosen to go on.

I wanted to share three things that happened just in the past four days. This will give you only a tiny bit of understanding into what the past 11 months have been like. I could name "tons" of things, but then I would be writing a book, and I am leaving that up to Dadmanly (who by the way is the most awesome husband, friend, support, have I mentioned any of this before?). Sunday I went to a close friend's babies (yes babies, twins) dedication at her church. As I was leaving the church in our van, I was "being me" and turned totally around to wave to someone behind me and continued to drive -- what I thought was forward, but I was turning the wheel as I turned my head -- and went into a very deep gully.

It was obvious from the position Little Manly and I were in, in the van, that if we moved, we might tip over, I did not know at the time, but the back of our van on the left side was in the air, wheels and all. What occurs to me now is how once again God took care of us! He sent the exact person to calm me, my friend's brother came to the door to help Little Manly and I out. The people that comforted us, the timing of the towtruck, the tow truck driver, my pastor calling my cell phone to ask me a question during this exact time, and prayed with me at that moment on the phone.

Everything was orchestrated by God and taken care of, I remembered I prayed that morning for protection. Not that it is magic, but God tells us to COME TO HIM, "Have a relationship with Me." He is a gentleman, He waits for us, let me tell you there is not a human on this earth who will ever convince me that God did not take care of us during that "adventure." We had not a scratch on us, and the van only had a couple of scratches. Then about a half hour later, Dadmanly called to say "Hi." AWESOME, to hear my husband's voice at that time!

The next event was Little Manly's first baseball game last night. God was there again, I'm not kidding. : ) He gave my son confidence to do something that Little Manly does with his Dad, and without his Dad here, Little Manly still did it knowing that his Dad would be so very proud of him. Perseverance, encouragement, strength, not only for himself but for my son to share with others. What a gift that young boy is to me and so many others, another reminder of the Grace, Mercy, Love, Care of God. They won the game, even without his Dad here, my son stepped up to bat. Again, God sent people to be there for my son, my nephew and his wife came, and my sister. Little Manly sensed the love and support, and even too young to understand. I know God knew who needed to be there last night, my nephew to my son is like having "a Dad" there, God knew this too, I believe that with all my heart.

When we got home my sister left my son a message on the phone, that not only touched my son's heart, but he knew before he heard it that it was her, that again is God's love, care, support and comfort. Again, Dadmanly called last night, and Little Manly shared all the news of the day and he beamed to "share it all with Dad!"

The last thing I need to share, this one I can hardly write without crying. I have to say that I do believe in God's timing. His timing is perfect, and when I surrender my day to Him and not try to do it alone. it is wonderful to see what transpires. Even in the midst of a trial, an uncomfortable situation, circumstances that occur that I would like to go home and hide under my pillow for the day, or just tears that flow without end on somedays, because pain or sadness feels too great to have to face.

God is working out every detail of my life. My cousin (and friend) died seven months ago. It is still very painful to think about. I still go to call her with something funny or silly that we would share together. She has a daughter that I have loved since she was a little girl, just something about her that has stayed within my heart for this child. When my cousin died, I talked with my niece. She asked if I could make her "cavatelli and broccoli," something I had made years ago that she loved and wanted the recipe for. Time has gone on and I have prayed and thought about my niece, but did not do anything to make contact. Today, again, God's timing not mine, I got an email from my Aunt, and on that email was my niece's address.

I immediately sent her a note and asked if I could make her those silly macaronis. After I sent it, I continued down my emails for the day, and she had actually sent me one, asking me for the recipe! No one can tell me that perfect timing does not exist. I wrote her back just sharing my heart, and I can't wait to hear back from her. All these experiences may seem insignificant to you, but they are huge for me. It is the daily assurance, the soft whisper in my ear and spirit that "I am with you" that I can hang onto, I do not have to do it on my own, in my own strength. God wants me to give each day to Him, not depend on anyone but Him, and He will send me EXACTLY what I need EXACTLY when I need it. NOTHING is impossible for Him.

So many people that I cannot even count have touched my life, heart, in so many ways since Dadmanly was separated from me: Family, Church, Coffee Shops, Road Workers, Grocery Clerks, Ice Cream Shop Owner, Landlord's Mother, A women I met ordering flags over the internet last year, Cousins, Nieces, Nephews, Sisters, Sisters-in-Law, Parents, Children, Co-Workers, Old Friends, New Friends, Aunts, Uncles, Counselors, Spiritual Guides, Strangers(in parking lots, lol), Teachers, Baseball Coaches, Neighbors...

I wrote down one day the names of people that I could remember that have come alongside of me just in the past 11 months, and I came up with 350 ... and I know that is not everyone ... I may not be rich in material things, but the God I serve, follow, and trust has given me more then I EVER EVER could have imagined, or thought possible on this journey. I really am looking forward to the next chapter of my life. Jeremiah 29:11 says,
"For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future, call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen, you will find me when you seek me with all your heart."

I am a blessed woman. Dadmanly's Wife, Mrs. Dadmanly : )

Carnival Highlights

To save you the time of checking them all out, I wanted to highlight what I thought were the most interesting links in today's Christian Carnival. (Descriptions courtesy of of the bloggers and editor Pseudopolymath, who hosted this week's carnival.)

Mark Sides of Stones Cry Out in Unto the Least of These tells the story of a daughter of a friend. A finer start to our "service" would be hard to find.

Lance Sayers of Ragged Edges offers up A Humble Dogma asking/reminding us to Allow others the freedom to choose to reject our faith is not a bad thing. In fact, such humility in sharing our faith is exactly what Jesus prescribed and practiced.

Messy Christian shares how it is sometimes difficult to publicly proclaim your faith in the outside influences in an essay Covert Christians. What if you are a sincere Christian, but outwardly you have to behave like you're a Buddhist/Muslim etc because of societal/familial pressures?

William Meisheid of Name Beyond the Rim... offers Wrongheaded Humility. It is time for us to abandon our wrongheaded humility and to stand up for the truth of the Gospel, in season and out of season, in all times and in all places, whether unpopular to others or embarrissing to us. Remember, we should always be humble about ourselves, but never about the truth of Jesus Christ. Onward Christian, onward.

John Shroeder of Blogotional writes in Christian Happiness about how we may find happiness in God by letting go. It is only when I discovered my own inadequacy, my own overwhelming need for God, that I could discover the true breadth and depth of God's amazing love for me.

LXVI Christian Carnival

The LXVI Christian Carnival is up, this time at Pseudopolymath. Follow the link, there's a lot of thoughtful Christian commentary!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Strong Tower, Part Three

This is the final Part of Three posts on Proverbs 18 and 19 that reflect on the Lord as a strong tower, a fortress, a rock, a shield (Proverbs 18:10):

10The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
One of the many ways we are distracted from a healthy respect and “fear of the Lord,” is that either riches or poverty can distract us from a proper reliance on the Lord.

Proverbs 18

11The rich man's wealth is his strong city,
And like a high wall in his own esteem.
16A man's gift makes room for him,
And brings him before great men.
Proverbs 19

6Many entreat the favor of the nobility,
And every man is a friend to one who gives gifts.
When wealth and privilege can give a person complete physical security, comfort and opportunity, it is easy for them to lose sight of “He from whom all blessings flow.” We cab begin to overvalue our role and contribution to our own success. Our esteem can be great, so great it crowds out any consideration of the source or the means of provision. Others help foster our illusions, however well intended. The fawning words, the overpraise, the fame and adoration or others may bring us great glory in a worldly sense.

Likewise, we may win over others by the same fawning attention or gifts. This may win us “summer-weather friends,” who more greatly esteem us as we show generosity to them.

As this may build a “high wall in [our] own esteem,” it breaks down the fortress that is the provision and protection of our God.

Proverbs 19

4Wealth makes many friends,
But the poor is separated from his friend.
7All the brothers of the poor hate him;
How much more do his friends go far from him!
He may pursue them with words, yet they abandon him.
17He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD,
And He will pay back what he has given.
Perhaps it is in the nature of our sins that we spurn those who seem most in need, but it isn’t the way God wants us to respond. We may shy away from friends in need, or avoid them in case they might make requests or demands upon us. Family may turn away from a burden felt too heavy, friends may be wary.

God is very clear, that as we receive the least of these, we receive the Son He sent as payment for our sins. We are to know that whenever someone is in need, whenever we see want or despair, how we respond is our demonstration to God of how we intend to respond to Him.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower, a fortress, a rock, a shield. But pride and selfishness can lead a person to do for themselves what God would do, or fear or sorrow may cause them to lose all hope. Stubbornness of spirit can blind them. True friendships require investment, but enmity and strife can bind us to violence.

We need to recognize that God uses the people around us as part of His conversation and provision, and uses us as conversation and provision for others. Rather than build a “high wall in [our] own esteem,” we need to esteem value in the way God esteems: as part of His timeless purpose for ourselves and others.

Strong Tower Part One

Strong Tower Part Two

Strong Tower, Part Two

This is Part Two of Three posts on Proverbs 18 and 19 that reflect on the Lord as a strong tower, a fortress, a rock, a shield (Proverbs 18:10):
10The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
If, as discussed in Part One, we may need the fellowship of friends and fellow believers to be part of the “finishing of our faith in Christ Jesus,” anything that destroys bonds or breeds distrust diminish what God can do with us.
4The words of a man's mouth are deep waters;
The wellspring of wisdom is a flowing brook.
We have an amazing capacity to communicate, but we don’t always realize just what it is we speak, and discern even less how our words are understood. I think this particular verse contrasts the source of wisdom and our words. The source of wisdom, understood perhaps as the Holy Spirit, is fast moving, like a fresh water brook, shallow in depth but not in meaning, and fleeting but only in its ability to move from point of inspiration to inspiration. Our words and thoughts, on the other hand, are deep, slow moving, at times stagnant. It seems sometimes as if almost anything can pass our lips. This also suggests that the source of wisdom might be transparent, clear, and clean, whereas our words may have hidden secrets in its depths.

19A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city,
And contentions are like the bars of a castle.
The Lord is a strong tower, but enmity and strife can lock us in other types of strongholds, that bind us to violence. When we offend others with our words and actions, it can take a lot of time and effort to regain trust. We may need to make extraordinary efforts to break those barriers back down once they’re erected.

21Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
And those who love it will eat its fruit.

Trust is so important in our relationships, because God so often uses the people in our lives to be part of His conversation and provision with us. And for us to be a part of His conversation and provision for others.

Part Three will consider the ways in which poverty and riches influence the security we may find in God.

Strong Tower Part One

Strong Tower, Part One

This is Part One of Three posts from Proverbs 18 and 19 that explore the summary exhortation of Proverbs 18, one that has especially strong meaning for believers deployed to Iraq (Proverbs 18:10):

10The name of the LORD is a strong tower;
The righteous run to it and are safe.
The name of the Lord is a strong tower, a fortress, a rock, a shield. Not everyone can accept this. Not everyone recognizes God in this way, and even some who do, find it difficult to trust God enough to take Him up on His offer.

Proverbs 18

1 A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.
14The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness,
But who can bear a broken spirit?
Sometimes, pride and selfishness can lead a person to do for themselves what God wants to provide, or turn towards desires that tempt away from God. For others, fear or sorrow may cause them to lose all hope, to turn away or leave behind a genuine help in times of trouble.

22He who finds a wife finds a good thing,
And obtains favor from the LORD.
For many men, a stubbornness of spirit, or a sense that dependency on God is weakness, can blind them or cause them to avoid consideration of God in their lives. And yet, there are many who come to a saving belief, who are led there by dutiful spouses who do not give up hope. Whether with a spouse or by close relationship with friends, it is difficult for anyone to come to believe in the hope in the Lord without someone who has come alongside.
24A man who has friends must himself be friendly,
But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
But the kind of friendships which encourage each other towards faith and obedience require investment. And no greater friend is that believer who sticks with you through thick and thin, not giving up, until God is able to speak into your heart.

Part Two will describe some ways that we break down the stronghold that the Lord wants us to inhabit.

Strong Tower Part Three

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wisdom, or Wander?

Some thoughts of Proverbs 17 today.

16Why is there in the hand of a fool the purchase price of wisdom,
Since he has no heart for it?

24Wisdom is in the sight of him who has understanding,
But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.

This spoke to me of the ready availability of wisdom through discernment. All of us can find wisdom, it can be purchased with only our attention and perseverance. In our hearts, we either value the search for wisdom, and recognize its path, or we don't. It may start in the mind as an idea to seek, but must be given substance of feeling in the heart to look for God. Fools certainly have the attention and diligence to follow after folly, and these same qualities could just as easily allow them to achieve wisdom.

And where does all that wasted energy and focus go? Anywhere and everywhere, to the ends of the earth and back. Like some wind, of no substance, puffing across the surface of the land and sea, some ruffled grass, a swaying tree, a white crest wave, and gone.

From our study in Experiencing God (by Blackaby, Claude King and I believe others), I learned that God is always at work around us. Rather than ask for what His will is for our lives, we better serve our own growth (and acquire more wisdom) by seeing how God is at work, and then see how we can join Him in His purposes already in progress around us. He is in our sight already if we have but understanding. If we can't wait to see how He is at work, or want to fill our lives with worldly aims, or our own sense of what's righteous, we may grow like that fool in Proverbs, whose eyes roam to the ends of the earth.

May you gain in that understanding that leads you to His wisdom.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Highway for Our God

My reading today in Proverbs reminds me that narrow is the way of the Lord. We need to prepare our hearts, whether we receive what God has to give us is up to us and our attentiveness. In Proverbs 16, the Lord says:
1 The preparations of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD.

And the better we prepare our hearts, the clearer answer He can provide. Not that there is anything wrong with His message, but like the imperfect vessel, we can be a poor recepticle for His utterances. We distance ourselves from God by our attitudes, or sin can be an obstacle to God's otherwise clear communication to us. Sometimes, it may be some fork in the road, and we need only choose the right path. More often I think, we might ask that God by some provision make straight the path, that we might not stray to one side or another.

17The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
He who keeps his way preserves his soul.

I think that's the sense that Elijah, and later John the Baptist, cries out a call to repentance. As prophesied in Isaiah 40:3:

3The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
"Prepare the way of the LORD;
Make straight in the desert
A highway for our God.
The appeal is at first emotional, immediate, a harkening to attention. From that moment on, though, the making of that highway for the Lord is our job, our duty. It is the way we ready ourselves for our communion with God. It is part of how we repent, we make our way straight.
18Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
The dangers of losing our focus is ever before us, one of the greatest risks is that we become prideful. We might even develop pride in our obedience to God, as if to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
19Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly,
Than to divide the spoil with the proud.
And in the end, humility is the surest preparation for our hearts. We who are not equal to God, who are sons in His inheritance only by the sacrifice of Jesus, can seek His favor. That we might stray neither to one side or the other, that we might avoid the trap of pride. For the prideful may feel the pumped up glory of their own regard, but in doing so, the spoils they are left with is the vintage of the grapes of God's wrath.

A Word Spoken in Due Season

It is too easy sometimes to lose sight of the nature of God, and his ever-presence. God is an unceasing consciousness within and over His creation, it's somehow both His essence and His steady attention. He has been the great I AM from before any other "befores," He spoke the world, "existence" itself into existence.

As the very first words of God's revelation to man relate:
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)

As He created all things of this world and universe by processes far too complex and miraculous for man to ever fully understand, God remained part and parcel of all His creation, and His Spirit continued to hover over the earth and the people He caused to populate it. And from that moment of conception, He has had a third piece fully of Himself, that of He who would be His Son:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was
God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through Him, and
without Him nothing was made that was made. 4In Him was life, and the life was
the light of men. 5And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did
not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

And I am powerfully reminded today that God in this supernatural, wonderful way, is with us all still; He is the same yesterday, today, and all the tomorrows that will ever be, and He remains as present and aware as He has always been. From Proverbs 15:

3The eyes of the LORD are in every place,
Keeping watch on the evil and the good.

There are many ways we can be likewise attentive to Him. We can spend time in His word, we can approach His throne of grace, we can share our struggles and joys with Him. We can join with fellow believers, and fellow searchers and seekers as well, and offer reach other encouragements and counsel, listening ears, open arms, and yielding hearts. Again, from Proverbs 15:

22Without counsel, plans go awry,
But in the multitude of counselors they are established.
23A man has joy by the answer of his mouth,
And a word spoken in due season, how good it is!
24The way of life winds upward for the wise,
That he may turn away from hell below.

Who among us does not recognize the joy and comfort of that word spoken in due season? Do we fail to notice that sometimes that word is meant to come from us? We know we are to come alongside each other, share each other's burdens, join with others in this very brief walk through creation.

Can God speak to you? Surely He has already; but it may be a matter of where attention is being paid. Are our ways winding steadily upwards, maybe with dips on the path, but hopefully and resolutely turning towards Him?

I resolve to turn to Him every time I lose hope, or think that I am somehow out of His earshot, which of course in reality I never am. Turn, turn, turn. It's never too late. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says:

1 To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven

May you likewise find your purpose under heaven as you listen for His voice as He hovers over His creation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

We Want God

(Or the Day World War II and Communism Failed in Poland.)

Follow the link to a moving tribute and remembrance to Pope John II, by Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal. (Somehow I missed this over the weekend.)

It is stories like this that convince me of the impact that God can have on an unfree world. And I think it demonstrates that God cares deeply about His children, and wants them all to breathe free.

65th Christian Carnival

The 65th Christian Carnival is now up at Another Think with a total of 64 separate posts. Follow the link.

(Blog "Carnivals," for those not familiar, are weekly collective gatherings of posts from participating Blogs around specific topics.)

One GladManly

I have been kicking around some ideas about evangelism for the past couple of weeks, and I wanted to go ahead and try to organize them. The outcome ties into the launch this new blog, one that I want to use exclusively for spiritual work, extended exegesis of scripture, and evangelism.

I have never considered myself particularly good at evangelism. I have always felt awkward about it, as for some I have a complicated witness. I have watched and listened to others evangelize, and I can't say I have ever connected with a style or approach or technique that seemed right for me.

I think I get hung up on that, like there's some formula or "right way," that if I do it wrong the person takes a pass, "No thanks, that doesn't sound like anything for me," but it's not the content of the message but the messenger, and I messed it up.

I know that at its core, Evangelism is a witness. Like the apostles, like Paul, Christians bear witness to the Good News: "That God so loved this world that He gave His only begotten son so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

But John's gospel goes on: "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." (John 3:17)

It's the salvation message, not meant to condemn, but to save. So why does it seem to unbelievers and other searchers that it's all about condemnation or finding fault?

For Paul and the Apostles, Evangelism was their witness of supernatural events that God caused to happen in front of them and to them. They were changed forever, and their eyes were ever after on Jesus and the Father who sent him.

Evangelism is a witness to others about God. Most powerfully to the people He wants to reach, Evangelism should be about how God has moved and is moving in the witness' life. I want to evangelize, witness to others about how God moves in my life -- not how I think He should move in yours!

Sometimes I think well meaning believers spend a lot of time stirring up arguments over articles of faith that are not central to a personal witness. I think these are like the arguments Paul had to deal with in the controversies that swirled in the first century church, pitting Jerusalem against the Gentiles, Gentiles against Gentiles, Gentiles against Jews, and on and on.

I want my witness to introduce people to God so that a personal relationshiop develops. I don't think I will achieve that with many people if my witness doesn't speak the truth about His character, but reveals more about the flaws in mine. God wants their attention, He doesn't want me to end up with it!

My God has a name, the great I Am, and His son who died for our sins is the long awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ, as foretold in the Prophets, the long-suffering servant who would be abused, yet be transfigured and sit at the right hand of God.

After that, God works whatever else He can work with the listener's heart, mind, soul, and spirit. We need to let God work through our witness, but as the starting point for what He will then do within the hearer of His word and the hearer's conscience.

Can any of us who might witness of His power and majesty say, we have defeated sin in our lives and behavior? No, not one.

I recently came across a very heated debate originating from an Evagelical Convention of Christian Bloggers. There was an awful lot of argument over how much they should be "in the world but not conformed to it," which is an important conversation among believers, but for searchers, it's a bit too much like insider tradecraft, and likely to confuse or disturb.

Extended argument over polemics, nuances in scriptural interpretation, or non-essential elements of faith can be counter-productive. I also personally believe that is a trap that non-believers sometimes set for the would be evangelist. Like those people who criticize action in the world of politics, and say, it's wrong unless we do "X" or achieve "Y," and then when those conditions are met, we find the standards are now "A" and "B" and so on. The goalposts get moved after the play.

I wonder sometimes if one of the ploys of the enemy (as in the enemy engaged in spiritual warfare) doesn't use the questioning of inconsistent people to shake a believer to compromise in some small way their beliefs, only to find that, when they do, there's always another compromise to make. Because the real goal was to get them to move from a point of conviction in the first place.

Anyway, that is quite enough for now. Consider these my opening remarks. The name of the Blog references the Hymn, "He Has made me Glad," which goes like this:

He has made me glad,
He has made me glad,
I will rejoice for He has made me glad!

I have spent the better part of the past year sprucing up my other Blog,, so it may take a while before this new blog has the quite the appearance of a finished product; pardon the signs of construction as I get started.

I would like to post sermons that I complete or are in progress, and I definitely want to start a conversational space in which a question can be posed and commenters can present answers. I think I'll call it "Questions for Questioners."

My kid sister (Kidsisly) gave me the idea.